Cape Town — Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has backed flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis for Saturday's Super Rugby clash against the Bulls at Newlands, and he is likely to keep backing him for the remainder of the 2019 campaign.
That was the clear message to come out of Thursday's press conference ahead of a match that the Stormers desperately need to win following a hugely disappointing loss to the Brumbies in Cape Town last weekend.
Du Plessis was rested for that game with Josh Stander taking the reins, but many felt it was a decision that was due following Du Plessis' struggles to consistently orchestrate the Stormers attack this year.
Stander did not go well on Saturday, and he has paid the price.
Having had a nightmare run of injuries over the last two Super Rugby seasons, Du Plessis is now fully fit, but that has not been enough to convince a passionate Western Cape rugby community.
He has another crack on Saturday, and it will come against the Bulls and their Springbok playmaker, Handre Pollard.
It is the biggest of tests for Du Plessis, but regardless of what happens, he can rest easy in the knowledge that he has his coach's full support.
"The way we see the game is that he has an influential role in the way we want to play," Fleck told media.
"We felt that the combination of himself, Herschel (Jantjies) and Damian de Allende was coming and as the (Australasian) tour went on it grew stronger.
"I felt that tactically against the Rebels he was very good ... we're pretty happy with the way he controls the game for us."
That Rebels performance Fleck was referring to came in Melbourne two weekends ago. Du Plessis started and his side emerged as 41-24 victors.
"We all know that he is a good rugby player and he has a good brain. We're going to keep backing him to drive the team forward," Fleck added.
"We like his interplay between the backs and the forwards as well and he brings that left foot which you need in the modern game."
While Stander may have struggled against the Brumbies, Damian Willemse at flyhalf would be a popular choice.
The 20-year-old remains one of South African rugby's most promising attacking players. He wants to play flyhalf and many think he should.
Fleck, though, helped explain why he is reluctant to go down that road.
"I know people are talking about Damian going back to No 10, but for me he is the number one fullback in the country at the moment," the coach said.
"He's been outstanding, so why take him out of a position that he's dominating in South African rugby at the moment?
"He's got a boot, he's controlling the game excellently from the back and in our side he's the best guy underneath the high ball.
"We don't want to mess with that too much."
Willemse is expected to go to this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan as the back-up fullback to incumbent Willie le Roux.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 15:05.
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Kobus van Dyk, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Seabelo Senatla
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw
Read this report on News24Wire.com.
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